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What, exactly, is retaliation in the workforce?

Workers who see illegal things going on in a workplace might worry about speaking up. Whether they are victims of sexual harassment, experience discrimination from their co-workers or witness an employer or manager skirting around established policies and laws, employees should feel free to bring the matter to light. But, what if the employer does something to punish the worker for speaking up?

Equal Employment Opportunity laws prohibit employers from taking negative employment actions of any sort simply because an employee makes a report or cooperates with an investigation into illegal actions. Those negative actions are considered retaliation, and employees have 180 days to file a complaint regarding this matter unless they work for the federal government. Federal employees only have 45 days to file the complaint. 

There are several actions that employers can take that as retaliation. The key fact here is that it must be done because of the protection action, or complaint. Employees who don’t meet work standards or who have disciplinary issues can still face these actions. 

Some retaliatory measures that employers might take include termination, demotion or cutting pay. Moving an employee to a less desirable shift, location or job is another example of what isn’t allowed. Giving them an unjust performance review and scrutinizing them more than they do other employees is another form of retaliation. 

Because of the laws against retaliation, anyone who feels they’ve dealt with it should contact an attorney who can help them to learn their options. Because of the strict time limits, you must act quickly if you want to hold your employer accountable.